Friday, September 09, 2016

Live, love, forgive, learn... and have fun!

What's the meaning of life?

...simple: To live!

Whether you understand it or not, whether you accept it or not, you chose to be here... and every day you spend here is a choice.

Within the constraints of time and space, a unique set of experiences and perspectives are available to you. Enjoy them!

To do that, start with a fundamental question, "What do you want!?" Discover your talents. Discover what matters to you. Play. Have fun! Help others.

If you do nothing else, love.

Within the limits of time and space, you may find it difficult to feel God's love. But, the love of others is immediately accessible. And, through that love, you're able to glimpse the love that God offers.

Too many ask "What is love!?" or "How will I find love?" or "How will I know I'm in love?" Too many confuse sex drive, romantic attraction or attachment to another as love. These are all powerful drives. But they're biological -- evolution's agenda -- they're not love. So, what is love?

To love, is to share our time, touch, words of affirmation, gifts and service to another without expectation. Gary Chapman's book The Five Love Languages sums it up beautifully.

Most of us have been fortunate to love and be loved at some point ...the compassion of a stranger ...her smile and the light in her eyes ...a hug from a new friend. Everyone has a story. Something simple that means more to them than they fully understand... A depth of connection that they can't explain.

During and immediately after birth, touch is our first experience. The beauty of touch as an expression of love is that it's reciprocal.

On the couch, with my six week old daughter sleeping soundly on my chest, tears streaming down my cheeks, I finally experienced true love for another. Eventually, I struggled to put words to the experience... To me, the best way to describe the feeling was to say "I had fallen in love with my daughter." But for the first time in my life, I had fallen in love in a way that didn't involve sexual attraction, or romantic attraction, or attachment. I was feeling something entirely new.

It would take another 24 years, and several more children, to fully understand... But, eventually it finally clicked:

To be "in love" is to open our heart to another with the hope that they will offer us their love through their time, touch, words, gifts or service.

As our heart is filled by their love, we feel love... "you'll just know it!" is true... unhelpful, but true. You'll also know it by paying attention to their actions: Do they spend quality time with you? Do they touch you lovingly? Do they offer words of affirmation? Do they bring you gifts? Do they offer acts of service?

And, all too often, sadly, once we have opened our heart to another, we will experience "The Void" -- the ache that comes from the lack of love from that special other... Whether it is temporary or permanent, the longing, desperation, and deep sadness that comes from having opened our heart to another only to feel it left empty is overwhelming. It causes us to question everything about that love, and our choice to be loved...

Forgiveness is the answer

Inevitably, we will have the need for forgiveness, and we will need to forgive. Forgiveness to another enables our heart to heal. Through our forgiveness, we let go.

Are there people who have hurt you? Are there people who make you angry? Forgive them. You have nothing to lose. Forgiving them doesn't "let them off the hook." Forgiving them doesn't mean that you have to forget. Forgiving them doesn't mean setting yourself up to repeat the past. Forgiving them is simply letting go of the past, living in your moment, and embracing your future free of the wounds of the past.

Asking forgiveness is the first step toward rebuilding a damaged relationship. If you have caused harm -- in any way -- there is always a way to feel sorry, to sincerely offer an apology, and to ask for forgiveness. A true apology is offered without expectation; you should not expect to be forgiven. But, to help the other to heal, you can acknowledge your mistake, you can offer to make amends, and you can honestly express your desire to heal the relationship. If you are refused, you have the opportunity to forgive them and be patient. Time is often the answer.

Live and learn

For decades, I've said "You can learn the hard way or the easy way. Listen to me, and I'll teach you the easy way. Keep doing what you're doing, and you may learn the hard way."

What I haven't said is that learning the easy way is a very slow process. Although a lot can be understood at an intellectual level, deep learning comes from experience. And, there's nothing like learning the "hard way" to translate experience -- rapidly -- into a lesson learned.

For my part, I chose "both." There are some lessons that are worth learning the hard way. There are a few lessons that can only be learned the hard way.

To me, it seems that lessons involving emotion can only be truly learned through experience -- the hard way. "Tis better to have loved and lost than to never to have loved at all." are terrific words, but it's only after losing love that they'll truly resonate. At that point, many of us find ourselves bitterly disagreeing. Love lost is a very hard lesson... but there doesn't seem to be any other way.

Likewise, courage is splashed across the big screen in the latest spate of war movies, but too few of us truly understand what bravery and courage feel like. There is no easy way to learn and deeply understand courage... you have to face the circumstance, feel the fear or the terror, make hard choices, and push through the experience... at the end of it all, we call it "courage." But, in the midst of it, we explain it only as "I did what I had to do." "...I did what anyone else would have done."

Ultimately, reflecting on the question "What do you want?" I suspect that all of us can realize that we're here to learn something. Certainly the need to live, love, forgive are common to us all. But, there's something in particular you're here to learn.

For my part, it has always been easy -- revealed in my very first words: "How's it works?" Although I wasn't conscious of it at the time, I'd spend the next two decades of my life exploring the mechanical and electrical world to understand "how's it works?" Cars, trains, planes, TVs... anything with buttons. Anything that moved.

In 1979, electronics, integrated circuits, the microprocessor, the computer would capture my attention. In 1984, philosophy and theology were added to the list. But, they weren't new, at four, I wondered about the nature of infinity... the limits of time and space. If you go to the limit, and then go further, what then? With the August 1985 cover of Scientific American, the image of the Mandelbrot Set renewed a fascination with mathematics, and ignited a new appreciation for how deeply math is woven through the fabric of our reality.

In 2003, I learned that my answer to most things is "both" or "all of the above." That has made focusing a challenge for me. What do you want to learn? Everything. But, the touch-stone has always been "How's it works?"

Have fun!

As a game developer, there is a particular irony to me that we live in the most extraordinary simulation ever invented. Whether you attribute that invention to God, or the spontaneous evolution of the properties of this universe following "The Big Bang", it's undeniable that the limits of this reality -- our time and space -- afford an extraordinarily vast playground.

Although we are radically constrained by our bodies, in this era we are fortunate to be able to use technology to extend our capabilities. Throughout history, we have explored through our imagination. With science, we have explored with our technologies. And, increasingly in this era, we are able to explore with our spirits.

What are we here for? ...the simple answer for me has always been: To have fun!

Sure, there are loftier pursuits: helping others, creating beautiful works of art, saving the world, making the world a better place. But, whatever you chose, if you're not having fun, you've probably chosen the wrong pursuit. ...I don't mean that every moment will be fun. I mean, when you look back on the last day, week, month, or year and say "What do I love!?" If you're not doing *that* with some portion of your life, you should be looking more carefully at your alternatives.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Blog post for Melissa

A friend was asked "What do you do?"  Answering on her behalf, from my experience, this is the answer I see:

Q: What do you do?

A: I guess what I do depends a lot on your perspective. To some, it might seem that I just spend weeks away from my family talking on a microphone to a bunch of tourists on a bus. To others who know better, it's clear that what I do is far more subtle.

To them, I'm a teacher. I share my knowledge of the people, places and cultures of New Zealand, Australia and Fiji. While many of my students sleep, or tune out with their earbuds firmly embedded in their skulls, a few of the students, and many of the parents, listen attentively and learn.

In the end, they may not retain many of the facts I've shared. But they all share in the love for these beautiful islands and their people.

But, for me, it's about more than being a teacher or a guide... Through my passion, my time, and my attention, I share my love for the people and places we visit -- and offer my love to the people I guide. Many appreciate what I offer and return that love, saying that their lives have been enriched by the time I've shared with them. We are a global family; my brothers and sisters, my children... Many, I'll never see or hear from again. But with a special few, I stay connected. Although we may never see each other in person again, the time we've spent traveling together has formed a rare and special bond.

I love what I do. I'm good at it. My life and the lives of those I touch are better for the work I do.

You don't have to understand... But if you really want to, why don't you come see for yourself?